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Author Topic: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Strategies REVISED  (Read 15793 times)

reddawn

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Arena Axioms 1: Opening Strategies REVISED
« on: June 12, 2013, 05:28:51 AM »
8/22/2014 Update: I have returned to playing MW regularly after a break, and a lot has changed since the writing of this article.  Most of it is different and now includes some insight on how the MW environment has changed, so please take another read.  Thanks!

Arena Axioms is a series with the goal to give players, especially new ones, advice that they can use in the arena to improve their play and thus get a bit more enjoyment out of the game. 

In this segment, I will be covering opening plays, how to approach different basic strategies, and some of the core concerns behind those approaches.  The main are numbered as follows:

1. Conjure at least 2-3 Mana conjurations and/or Rings to help you stay on equal mana footing with the opposing mage. 

Arcane Wonders recognizes the importance of early increases in channeling, as is apparent in their updated starting spellbooks.  All of the mages have at least 2 Mana Crystals/Flowers in addition to their "X-class only" mana-reduction rings and spawnpoints, and indeed in my experience, playing 2 channeling-increasing mana cards on the first turn of the game is optimal.  Virtually all matches last for at least 5 turns, usually many more, so they are guaranteed to provide an increase in mana regardless of what other more specific cards you'll need.

2.  Spend your starting mana and choose your play style

Casting creatures is the main way early on to spend your extra starting mana.  The need for more actions isn't implicit in the rules, but having a solid amount of actions ensures that you're going to have things to do and more options throughout the game other than having to rely solely on your mage's actions.

Your approach towards summoning creatures will generally depend on whether or not you're going to be using your class spawnpoint or using a Battleforge: 

A. If you are using your class spawnpoint (Pentagram, Gate to Voltari, Lair, Libro Mortuous/Graveyard, etc), you should have a good mana "curve" of creatures.  That is, you want your creatures cost to match what you need throughout the game.  This means having some level 1 and 2 creatures for the early game, some level 3 or 4 creatures for the mid-game, and possibly a level 5 or higher creature for the late game. 

Additionally, Meditation Amulet is particularly good when using a class spawnpoint.  As you spend most of your mana on creatures, you'll find yourself running out of very mana quickly; MA gives your Mage the ability to help fuel your army of creatures when he or she would otherwise be out of mana.  You can also prepare another card to Quick Cast after you restore some mana Meditating; it's a neat way to make sure your mage always has something to do.

Some Spawnpoints can only cast creatures with a certain amount of mana already on them (Temple of Asyra, Pentagram, etc); when playing mages with those spawnpoints, it's often a good idea to include a Harmonize to enchant them.  This allows you to more consistently rely on your spawnpoint rather than risking not being able to cast a creature on a turn you really need to.

The goal when casting creatures with a spawnpoint is to summon what you need; if your opponent doesn't have much armor (or any) or bigger armored creatures, you don't need large creatures with special abilities; lots of little creatures actually give you more dice than one or two big ones, and are usually not very profitable for your opponent to kill or control outside of zone-targetting cards, or cards that affect the entire arena. To make cards like zone-attacks less attractive for your opponent, avoid clumping most of your creatures into a single zone; stagger them in different zones instead, if possible.  Doing this also ensures that if an opponent attempts to block their movement with a Wall, only a couple of your creatures will lose actions getting around it, not your entire army.

On the other hand, if you see lots of armor and/or big creatures on the other side of the arena, you need to match them with strong, higher-level creatures of your own and/or armor, a defense, or other protection cards like Divine Protection, control cards like Agony to punish high dice or special attacks, and Regrowth on your mage to survive through multiple  fights.

Knowing when to transition from smaller creatures to bigger creatures is very important to your success when using a class spawnpoint play style.  Seeing an enemy mage with lots of enchantments and armor or large enemy creatures is a good indication that you need to summon larger, more powerful creatures with special abilities.  Including spells like Acid Ball, Rust, Call of the Wild, Marked for Death, Armory, and Tooth and Nail are also very good ways to support the smaller creatures you have already summoned, since these cards and others like them also help your larger creatures. 

Players should note that if you are spending most of your mana on creatures (which is going to be the case if you're using a class spawnpoint), your mage is going to be more vulnerable.  The other part of performing well when using a class spawnpoint is really knowing when to involve your mage in the fighting, and to heavily support your creatures over the course of the game with cards that increase their value in some way and cover their respective weaknesses (as previously mentioned).  Anticipate damage and control cards that your opponent will use to maim and punish your creatures, and if one of your bigger creatures is wounded, it's a safe bet to prepare a healing spell to make sure it survives.  Unless you're in a position to gain a big advantage over your opponent, losing a larger creature can easily mean losing the game.

Ultimately, your creatures are the heavy-lifters here, so your mage needs to as far away from the action as possible while still being able to support her creatures.  Walls that block LoS/movement and powerful equipment like Cloak of Shadows can allow your mage some leniency in her mobility, instead of being confined to a corner of the arena and/or missing summoning opportunities because you're afraid she'll be focused. 

B. If instead you're using a Battleforge (Fellella functions similarly for Nature mages), your needs and focus change somewhat.  Your general strategy isn't to support lots of creatures and gain tons of actions, it is to increase the quality of your fewer actions and reduce the quality of your opponent's actions, usually by playing buffing cards on your mage and higher level friendly creatures while playing control cards on the opposing mage and his or her creatures.

The Battleforge/mage-buffing play style is arguably simpler than the spawnpoint style, since there are less actions and thus less individual decisions you have to worry about.  Your main concern is to make sure that you're not overwhelmed by mages who use a lot of creatures while removing all of your buffing progress.  If your opponent is successful, all that really matters at that point is how many dice each player is rolling, and you're not going to win that fight having fewer creatures.

In particular, you need to plan for cards like Harshforge Monolith, Purge/Destroy Magic, and Arcane Corruption, all of which are very powerful at punishing heavy investment in enchantments.  On other side of the same coin, you also need to include cards that punish a player using lots of creatures, so you don't get easily overwhelmed.  Mordok's Obelisk, Suppression Orb, Idol of Pestilence, creatures with zone affects like Malacoda or sweeping like Dwarf Kriegsbiel, and various zone attacks can help you fight back against waves of creatures.  Be sure to support these cards with buffs of their their own; you aren't going to have many opportunities to summon creatures, so you need to make sure the few ones you do summon aren't destroyed.

Probably the most straightforward of protecting your enchantments other than just having multiple copies is Enchanter's Wardstone.  It's pretty much specifically designed to help players who buff their mage with more than one or two enchantments, and punishes enchantment-destroying cards.  Armor Ward is the same kind of idea, just for equipment; however, there is not as of yet any card released that destroys multiple equipment, so Armor Ward is arguably less relevant in the current card pool/environment.

c. Three cards you'll really want to consider regardless of play style are Wand of Healing, Mana Prism, and if you're playing a War mage, Conquer 

Both styles often include various ways of inflicting conditions that are detrimental to the other, like Sleep, Corrode, Cripple, and more; you'll want to make sure you're prepared if one of those happens.  The small heal is also a great way to spend a little extra mana you might be floating.   Just be aware that the range on the Wand is pretty short, so it won't save you or one of your creatures if you make a big enough mistake.

There are plenty of cards that force players to pay mana, especially if they're focused on a particular strategy, and that's where Mana Prism comes in.  Like the Wand, it won't stop everything your opponent is doing to ruin your plans, but it will soften the late-game blow from lots of different control cards.  This is especially true given the recent release of the Anvil Throne Warlord, his mana-taxing abilities, and the powerful Harshforge Plate.

On the note of War mages, Conquer is a very strong card that can take the place of Mana Prism (Arcane cards cost triple spellbook points for the Warlord, so this is preferable), as many of the most disruptive mana-taxing cards are corporeal conjurations.  Conquer is conditional, but the condition is not hard to fulfill and no other card currently can outright destroy a corporeal conjuration with no dice rolled.


Thanks for reading! I know it is a lot to mull over, but the advice should help all levels of players.  The game has changed significantly since the early sets and very much for the better.  I welcome any constructive feedback, critical or complementary, and edit-in any information I missed that another player picks up on.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2014, 08:01:53 PM by reddawn »
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ringkichard

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2013, 12:30:45 PM »
Unless you're playing Forcemaster.
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reddawn

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2013, 12:51:10 PM »
Unless you're playing Forcemaster.

Invisible Stalker and Thoughtspores are pretty important to FM play.  Even the Forcemaster relies on creatures, albeit somewhat less.  You just can't stack enough defenses to reliably stop everything, and while Forcefield is a pretty darn good card, it's very expensive and eventually stops working well.

Edit: I will say however that I've been overall more than a little disappointed in Psyloks.  You can drag them around to make their attack less situational, but even then 2 dice, critical damage or not, is just not good enough when the daze chance is very lackluster.  Iron Golems are also immune to their attack, as if it wasn't bad enough...
« Last Edit: June 12, 2013, 01:01:00 PM by reddawn »
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MrSaucy

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2013, 01:29:29 PM »
Unless you're playing Forcemaster.

Invisible Stalker and Thoughtspores are pretty important to FM play.  Even the Forcemaster relies on creatures, albeit somewhat less.  You just can't stack enough defenses to reliably stop everything, and while Forcefield is a pretty darn good card, it's very expensive and eventually stops working well.

Edit: I will say however that I've been overall more than a little disappointed in Psyloks.  You can drag them around to make their attack less situational, but even then 2 dice, critical damage or not, is just not good enough when the daze chance is very lackluster.  Iron Golems are also immune to their attack, as if it wasn't bad enough...

Invisible Stalker can be good, but if you are playing against a swarm build he won't be very effective. At that point you might be better off laying down Suppression Orb and going solo. Thoughtspores are nice. I basically think of them as "flying mage wands." Technically, they are "flying elemental wands" as well, but I think the cheaper incantations (like force push and knockdown) work better on them than the cheaper attack spells (like invisible fist). Psyloks are utterly useless.
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sdougla2

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2013, 02:41:46 PM »
Unless you're playing Forcemaster.

I still like to play a Thoughtspore most of the time, but I agree, she doesn't need creature support the way that the other mages do. Using Galvitar to kill a Steelclaw after it got off only a single attack was fun. As was doing 21 damage to a Wizard on turn 3... Galvitar hits hard.
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reddawn

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2013, 02:48:18 PM »
Unless you're playing Forcemaster.

Invisible Stalker and Thoughtspores are pretty important to FM play.  Even the Forcemaster relies on creatures, albeit somewhat less.  You just can't stack enough defenses to reliably stop everything, and while Forcefield is a pretty darn good card, it's very expensive and eventually stops working well.

Edit: I will say however that I've been overall more than a little disappointed in Psyloks.  You can drag them around to make their attack less situational, but even then 2 dice, critical damage or not, is just not good enough when the daze chance is very lackluster.  Iron Golems are also immune to their attack, as if it wasn't bad enough...

Invisible Stalker can be good, but if you are playing against a swarm build he won't be very effective. At that point you might be better off laying down Suppression Orb and going solo. Thoughtspores are nice. I basically think of them as "flying mage wands." Technically, they are "flying elemental wands" as well, but I think the cheaper incantations (like force push and knockdown) work better on them than the cheaper attack spells (like invisible fist). Psyloks are utterly useless.

Swarming the opponent takes too long to really be effective.  Small creatures, while mana efficient, are extremely action inefficient, especially as full actions.  You could argue that the BM can do it with his level ones, given his ability, but after trying swarm more than a few times, there's just better support in the overall cardpool for bigger creatures.     

As with other posters, I do agree that in general, the Forcemaster is not as creature-heavy.  We could argue about the varying degrees she needs/doesn't need creatures, but this is with the knowledge that she is the exception, not the rule, and not too much of an exception at that.
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sdougla2

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2013, 02:55:39 PM »
There is plenty of support for BM swarms, and BM swarm plays can be extremely powerful. It's just important to have a more resilient threat so that losing your swarm doesn't set you back to square one. The first few swarm plays I saw turned out very badly, so I initially assumed that swarms just weren't good. That's not true. They're fantastic, but you can't afford to overcommit to them if your opponent has strong counters.
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reddawn

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2013, 04:17:03 PM »
There is plenty of support for BM swarms, and BM swarm plays can be extremely powerful. It's just important to have a more resilient threat so that losing your swarm doesn't set you back to square one. The first few swarm plays I saw turned out very badly, so I initially assumed that swarms just weren't good. That's not true. They're fantastic, but you can't afford to overcommit to them if your opponent has strong counters.

I was going to post about my reservations with this statement...but I think it would be more constructive to ask how you go about doing your swarms.  Honestly, I have not had success with them, even with help from the two totems, call of the wild, etc.  The main one have practiced is dog swarm with Redclaw, since it seemed the most straightforward and intuitive, but I haven't found Bitterwood Foxes to be of much use.  Foxes seem to be much better as occasional ways to remove guards than pile on damage.  Wolves are a very different story, they're awesome, but I'm not sure Redclaw and a small squad of wolves counts as a swarm really...

So basically, maybe you can give us some advice on how to do it, and I can incorporate that into the Axiom, giving credit of course.
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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2013, 04:38:30 PM »
Foxes and bobcats die too easy so I had a problem with them in the beginning. Now I see them as attack spells xD (they cost 4-5 mana with ring, with totems out they can hit for 4-5 dice like an attack spell) If I am lucky they survive more than 1 round. If I have a bigger creature out usually I can move away next round and charge again after that. This way I have more success with them, if they die after 1 attack, I didnt waste an attack spell.

I think a new totem would be quite useful with +1 armor in the whole arena. It should be pricey so it only worth to summon it for swarms. For big creatures there are cheaper options to get armor.

I also think the great tree was designed to help swarms but I can't ever find a good time to use it, usually I need mana for something else.

Finally I have to admit that I agree that pure swarm tactic can not win for now, you will need 1-2 big creature sooner or later to finish the game.

sdougla2

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2013, 04:56:37 PM »
I tend to play Redclaw or Steelclaw on turn 2, and then play some combination of Foxes, Falcons, and totems, depending on what's going on. I've had times when I managed to get a Bitterwood Fox to attack for 6 or 7 dice (Redclaw, Rajan's Fury, and Marked for Death are amazing here), at which point it's efficient even if it immediately dies, especially since my opponent will most likely have to devote an attack to killing it.

The thing to remember is that a Bitterwood Fox with a Ring of Beasts costs as much as a Block without a discount ring, but it can attack until killed, and it may take multiple attacks to destroy. As long as you can avoid eating efficient zone attacks or Chain Lightnings, and avoid running them into powerful guards, they tend to build up if your opponent doesn't keep on top of things, at which point your damage output should be much higher than theirs is. Bitterwood Fox is far more damage efficient than Timber Wolf, but it's much more fragile (Timber Wolf costs twice as much with Ring of Beasts, has an attack 33% stronger, but is about 3 times as tough).

If your opponent devotes everything to killing off your swarm, you still have a big creature tearing big chunks off of them, and your level 1 creatures are effectively acting as Blocks.

It's also worth noting that summoning 2 Fast creatures 2 zones away from someone (who hopefully can't get farther away due to a board edge and can't close effectively due to hindering) allows you to pressure them hard, since it's difficult for them to get away or prevent your creatures from getting attacks in. With Rajan's Fury, you can be attacking for quite a bit with those Foxes.

Thunderdrift Falcons benefit the most from Rajan's Fury (Flying works as pseudo Elusive).

Tanglevine and Wall of Thorns are also great for these types of builds.
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szendroib

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2013, 04:59:54 PM »
Great write-up sdougla2.

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2013, 05:31:20 PM »
Ok, I will try your suggestions and see how it works out.  As a point of connection, though, we can pretty much all agree that regardless of your build order, big creatures are needed to start? They seem like the anchor a every good start needs, which has been my experience as well as others.
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sdougla2

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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2013, 09:46:19 PM »
The Forcemaster doesn't need big creatures. I've attacked for 21 damage on turn 3 with her with only a Thoughtspore down for creatures. Others can get by with mid sized creatures, but everyone else at least needs a mid sized creature.
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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2013, 10:00:31 PM »
this whole thread is advice for new learners. I would not put the force master 10 dice x2 (BF) build as one to  recommend to beginners. that fm build is very vulnerable to shut down if a beginner users it.

yes I understand that your X mage build doesn't use big creatures and you have won a lot with it, but you guys are not beginner players.

the advice this thread gives is valid for beginners (usually people who haven't made a spell book from scratch) and what I will tell all the people I demo from now on

PS. I would also put swarm in a non beginner category because it to can be easily shut down if you are new to the game.
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Re: Arena Axioms 1: Opening Summons
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2013, 10:13:14 PM »
this whole thread is advice for new learners. I would not put the force master 10 dice x2 (BF) build as one to  recommend to beginners. that fm build is very vulnerable to shut down if a beginner users it.

yes I understand that your X mage build doesn't use big creatures and you have won a lot with it, but you guys are not beginner players.

the advice this thread gives is valid for beginners (usually people who haven't made a spell book from scratch) and what I will tell all the people I demo from now on

PS. I would also put swarm in a non beginner category because it to can be easily shut down if you are new to the game.

Wizard is probably best for beginners I'd say.
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